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Add Running Speed With Shorter, Faster Workouts

You're not as slow as you think, as these workouts will show.

You’re not as slow as you think, as these workouts will show.

Working with runners of all ability levels on a daily basis opens up your eyes to many running truths, particularly the fact that most runners are not as slow as they think. Beginner runners are often quick to downplay their speed without really knowing what they are capable of. Finding out how fast you really are can be a great confidence boost. Seeing an 8:00 or faster pace per mile on your watch can bring a smile to any runner’s face.

Running shorter and faster workouts can improve mechanics and help you realize what you can do with the right combination of speed and endurance training. Runners can get out of balance and only focus on endurance and long run mileage, but doing shorter, faster workouts gives you a balance to your training. Even if you are not really interested in getting faster, it is still a great way to break up your training and give your slow twitch muscles a break.

Try the workouts on the following pages to add some speed.

RELATED: Safely Introducing Speedwork Into Your Training


Short, fast workouts can be done even if you feel you “don’t have any speed.” They are also different than traditional speed workouts of 200s, 400s and 800s. These workouts are ultra-short intervals designed to simply get your legs turning over faster and make you aware of your true speed.

A proper warmup is very important before one of these types of workouts. Typically, tight hamstrings are the most venerable to injury. Each workout should be proceeded by at least a 10-minute warmup and some light dynamic stretching, such as leg swings. Your first few intervals should be used to just turn your legs over. Toward the end of the workout, when you are fully warmed up, you can start going for faster times.

The distances are short in order to take out a huge part of the endurance factor. Often even 200m or 400m repeats done in traditional speed workouts are way too long to really develop speed and good mechanics. Very short distances allow you to go fast and recover quickly. Running these workouts is not about running all out the entire time. Focus on just turning your legs over and having smooth mechanics. You want to have a good turnover rate, but also try to open up your stride a bit by running with a higher knee lift and a bigger arm swing.

Workout 1:  2 x 70m, 2 x50m, 2 x 30m (2-3min walk rest)

Where: On a track or flat road course
This workout will give you a good indication of how your mechanics change when you try to speed up. The distances are very manageable and allow plenty of rest to keep the paces fast. For this workout, you will simply do two sets of 70m runs, 50m runs and 30m runs. Walk for 2-3 minutes as rest after each run. You will use this workout to get an idea of what your short end speed is.

For reference, here are some paces per mile times for these short distances:

30m: 6.71s = 6:00/mile pace

7.27s = 6:30/mile

7.83s = 7:00/mile

8.39s = 7:30/mile

8.95s = 8:00/mile

9.51s = 8:30/mile

10.07s = 9:00/mile

50m: 11.18s = 6:00/mile pace

12.12s = 6:30/mile

13.05s = 7:00/mile

13.98s = 7:30/mile

14.91s = 8:00/mile

15.84s = 8:30/mile

16.78s = 9:00/mile

70m: 15.55s = 6:00/mile

16.96s = 6:30/mile

18.27 = 7:00/mile

19.57 = 7:30/mile

20.88 = 8:00/mile

22.18 = 8:30/mile

23.49 = 9:00/mile

RELATED: Basic Speed Workouts For Runners

Workout 2: Straights and Curves for 50m

Where: Track
Straights and curves is a classic speed workout typically done by jogging the curves of a track and then striding out on the straights for 100m. We take that same concept but just mark off 50m of fast running on each straight. Doing this allows for more recovery time and a faster leg turnover. You can start with as little as two laps and work up to four laps.

Workout 3: 100m Fast, 400m slow

Where: Track or flat road course
This workout is just like straights and curves, only now you will run a 100m fast and a 400m slow. Again, you can start with as little as two laps and work up to four laps.

RELATED: Speed Workouts During Marathon Training

Workout 4: 1-mile Time Trial

Where: Track
After several weeks of shorter, faster workouts, it’s time to test yourself. A 1-mile time trial (4 laps around a standard 400m track) gives you the opportunity to race over a manageable distance. You still have to pace yourself a bit, but runners of many ability levels will have 10 minutes of running or less. See what you are capable of and compare that with your 5K, 10K, half marathon and marathon paces. It will be eye opening to see what you can do. After another month to six weeks of training, you can run another one to measure your progress.

These workouts can help you become a better runner and open your mind to what is possible. Try these workouts this summer and make yourself a faster, more balanced and confident runner!